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Restless & Relentless

C. S. Krishna Setty adopts a multidisciplinary approach to his art and his Veteran Series 1 makes a shift from dark floating images to semi abstract and dramatic with graphic intonations, says Saraswathy K Bhattathiri

Eminent artist, printmaker, art critic and columnist, C. S. Krishna Setty says his inner being urges him to reveal suppressed and unexpressed feelings. He says, “They have to come out, otherwise it’ll become intolerable. And I am most comfortable with visual art, so that means paper, canvas, colours…” Setty, whose work titled “Veteran Series 1” at a Bengaluru Art Gallery gives out a sense of restless, yet focused drive for self exploration and artistic evangelism, says as human beings, we are different from other species and we need to express our thoughts. “Being part of this beautiful and curious world, I have my own experiences and feelings, which need to be expressed,” says the ex-chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi. The artist, who was also the founder president of Drushya Kala Sahitya Parishad, an organisation formed to encourage art writing in Karnataka, is a postgraduate in Kannada literature from Mysore University. “Basically, I am a painter; but due to some compulsions I took up art criticism and became a columnist for several years. For a while, I also headed the Lalit Kala Akademi.

I was an organiser and administrator of many art fairs/events/camps. But it did not give me the satisfaction I wanted. So recently, I switched back to painting.” He clarifies. His new series makes a kind of shift from dark floating images to semi abstract, dramatic and graphic intonations. Setty adopts a multidisciplinary approach to his art where he redefines the artist beyond media divisions. The characters and objects emerge out of the picture planes instead of externally inserting them into the surface of the canvas. The Veteran Series 1 is an assemblage of semi-abstract illusions and floating figures that elucidate a sense of spontaneity and automatism. Micro-organism like in macro scales, one set of his drawings are unleashed, yet mysterious bawdy that coincides with Freudian libido analogous to the title of the show. These works excavate a non-contemplative visual intellect interwoven with personal occurrences smeared transversely within a preconceived picture plane. The series of work takes its inspiration from daily life situations which are psychologically entwined with early fables. He also adds vivid colours of crayons to his palette and elements from nature like fishes and snakes. The pinks and the blues stand apart from his display at Subliminal Excavations as it echoes a different mode of perception in his practice from dark gloomy to vibrant spectacles. The play of aesthetics in his works goes beyond its apolitical appearance to submerged connotations where the lineage itself becomes a political choice; a choice to address the self-excluding its ever changing transactions with hegemonic structures. These works share a sense of ephemeral quality as they exclusively refrain from evident dialogues on a cultural past or future. Nevertheless, his works situate itself in the contemporary times ascribable to the inclusive attitudes of the era so as to relinquish reiterations of antecedence. It also fetches in questions of how artistic temperaments juggle between channelising genuine experiences, contesting with abundance and intervening through a broader spectrum of ideations and visuals in a practice. With an inbuilt surrealist undertone, his body of work echoes as an amalgamation of his childhood memories of theatre plays and native folk art. He juxtaposes metaphors from nature and holds mythological lineation bringing immediate local discourses paralleling his otherwise political concerns. The textural qualities in his works not only demonstrate his influences from printmaking, but also a contest for the texture of the given surface. One can see cinematic persuasions in his silhouette’s images on frozen pictorial spaces. Blending the visual, literary and the theatrical, his works bridge the performative to the non- performative white cube art, which refutes the binary, hierarchical and puritanism attitudes in the realm of art production, display and discourse. Born in 1952, Setty hails from Thirthahalli, Shimoga district, Karnataka.

He pursued Fine Arts from the University College of Art, Davangere, and commenced research in graphics from Garhi Studios, New Delhi. He holds a postgraduate degree in Literature from Mysore University and a post-graduate Diploma in Public Relations from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. “Over the years, many national and international artists have shaped and inspired me. But my artistic role models are Anselm Kiefer and Antoni Tàpies. They have moved me through unusual modes of process and material. What great creators they are,” says the artists, who believes that the purpose of art is to produce thinking and introspection. “It should shake us into revelations and rip us from our default mode of seeing.” he avers. Setty’s art writings were aimed at blending the literary, visual and the theatrical as well as addressing the mobility of art through the vernacular language writing as we can notice in his extensive writings in Kannada. He deploys a unique method of fusing the western psychic theories with Indian aesthetics and one can notice this in an anthology of essays on art criticism ‘Chitrachitta’ where he connects a wide range of art forms from folk, classical to the performative. He also published books on Expressionism, Drishya kale Endarenu and was art critic for popular newspaper Prajavani. He directed the serial ‘Chitrantharanga’ for Doordarshan. Setty’s major collections are in Lalitkala Academy, New Delhi, Bharat Bhavan Bhopal, Lalit Kala Academy Madras, Manchester, Switzerland and Denmark etc.